Sunday, June 13, 2004


Hundreds of patients stand to lose state aid

Sibyl Talbot of Columbus worked from the age of 17 until she was no longer able.

Now 77, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease seven years ago and is confined to Muscogee Manor & Rehabilitation Center in Columbus.

"Mother is nonverbal, nonambulatory and can't eat regular food anymore," her daughter, Linda Denney, said Friday.

Yet earlier last week, Denney said the family was notified by the Medicaid program that starting July 1 her mother will no longer receive Medicaid benefits that enable her to stay in the nursing home because she makes $1,710 a month -- or $18 more than the normal cap to receive Medicaid coverage.

A year ago, Talbot was classified as "medically needy" by the Georgia Department of Community Health. A year ago she was included in a program under which the state approves Medicaid benefits for those who make more than the $1,692 cap but not enough to pay for nursing home costs, which can be $4,000 a month or more.

But on July 1 the state is eliminating the program supporting the medically needy that serves 1,680 people across Georgia. That decision was recommended last fall by the department's board, after Gov. Sonny Perdue asked for a second round of budget cuts.

Georgia Medicaid and nusing homes....the same combination that was under investigation earlier this year for the "bed tax".

Nursing homes and families of the 1,680 Georgia nursing home residents who face cutoff of Medicaid benefits are scrambling to find some way to retain those benefits. The state has offered the special Medicaid program since 1990.

Julie Kerlin, spokeswoman for Community Health, said the state will save about $9.7 million annually by eliminating the program, and that it was a very tough decision. Overall, she said, it will mean a reduction of $24 million to the department, including the loss of federal funds.

So a program that thinks nothing of paying $107 million for a consulting firm can't find $9.7 million to keep poor folks in the nursing home.

And there are people who want to put the government in charge of all healthcare? Be careful what you ask for.
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